Learning Fractions Is A Monkey Job

kornika's picture

Aug. 27, 2015

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Monkeys are intelligent. You know that, right? But did you know that they can grasp the concept of complex fractions too, something that you failed to do in school? In fact, a lot of people find it difficult to understand the whole-quantitative relationship. But can other species understand them? This was the question that the researchers puzzled about and decided to conduct a test study in order to get the answers.

The researchers from Duke University, New York tried to find out whether rhesus monkeys could compare different ratios. The study consisted of the following steps.

The monkeys were handed a small touch-screen computer first.
They were trained on how to use it by touching two different shapes i.e. a white diamond and a black circle.
There was a ding sound on touching the black circle and the monkey who did it was rewarded with a piece of candy.
The white diamond made a buzz when touched and the monkey doing it received nothing.
The monkeys managed to earn their candies by increasingly touching the black circle while the other shape remained untouched.
It was time to introduce them to fractions now.
They were shown two different arrays, each containing both the shapes in various ratios.
The monkey was expected to touch the one having a greater ratio of black circles to white diamonds.

The task wasnt made easy for them. You can understand how difficult it was by looking at the image below.

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The monkeys were able to choose correctly within a short period of time. They were able to reason and find out the better proportions even when presented with other shapes and numbers. The scientists were impressed indeed!

They reasoned that, Our results suggest that monkeys understand the magnitude of ratios. They also indicate that monkeys might be able to answer another type of question: analogies.

The researchers are keen to check whether the human minds have this in-born skill as well. This inherent skill may then be utilized in teaching children the concept of fractions and ratios better, said the study team.